Rolling Stone (11/28/96, p.130) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...an ass-shaking testament to the many moods of the Holy Groove....a rhythmic precision somewhere between the flawless propulsion of the Meters and the free-flowing pulse of Weather Report....dissolving the boundaries that separate rock, jazz and the urban sound du jour..."
Entertainment Weekly (10/18/96, p.82) - "...Imagine Booker T & The MG's attempting early-'70s fusion and you have the general idea. SHACK-MAN won't rock your world, but it may make it seem like a nicer place." - Rating: B
Down Beat (1/97, pp.46-48) - 3 Stars - (out of 5) - "...Drummer Martin sets up a wicked funk shuffle, Wood twitches nasty bass ostinatos around the beat and Medeski's keyboards superimpose simple repeated figures leading to insidious hypnotic variations..."
Vibe (11/96, p.148) - "...MM&W's trademark organ-and-clavinet-driven grooves generally fall near the outer limits of the `next shit' borderline..."
Option (1-2/97, p.96) - "...probably MMW's most cogent, least chaotic of four albums to date....a pinnacle of sorts. Here, John Medeski's chronically soulful keyboard leads don't ever lose sight of his sometimes self-absorbed rhythm section..."
Village Voice (10/22/96, p.61) - "...SHACK-MAN is a cheerful but slower and more ethereal album than the group's previous efforts. Closer to their regular live shows, the tunes flow seamlessly into one another, revealing the telepathic interactions between the trio."
Medeski Martin & Wood: John Medeski (Hammond B-3 organ, Clavinet, Wurlitzer electric piano, toy piano, synthesizer); Chris Wood (acoustic & electric bass); Billy Martin (drums, percussion).
Recorded at The Shack, Hawaii in June 1996.
While their blueprint may be old-fashioned organ trios, New Yorkers John Medeski, Billy Martin and Chris Wood stretch far beyond the chitlin-circuit sound of the Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Grant Green combos that defined that genre. M, M & W are just as much a product of the Knitting Factory's avant-jazz freak-outs and the second-line New Orleans rhythms of the Meters. They have an innate ability to groove one moment, break out of the earth's atmosphere and visit Sun Ra's musical world the next, and wind up at some isolated patch of funk, jazz and improvised rock.
What makes it all work on SHACK-MAN is the trio's knowledge of and comfort with these various musical spaces, and desire to tinker with such calculated machinery. Medeski can ride any of his various keyboards for all they're worth, but may actually stand out more when playing spacy, spare parts. Wood's guitar erupts with Hendrixian flamboyance, then drops into a funky rhythm pattern; his bass runs the same long-range axis (check out the hyperkinetic "Bubblehouse"). Martin is part Ziggy Modeliste, part John Bonham, coupling inventive, dance-oriented time patterns with the steadiness that allows his partners to achieve their jazzbo aspirations.